Data from the BC Coroners Service sheds stark light on the ongoing opioid crisis in the Province, with 162 illicit drug toxicity deaths in October, three of which were in the East Kootenay.

The B.C. Government said the numbers equate to about five people per day losing their lives to drug overdose.

October is the fifth month in 2020 which had more than 160 suspected illicit drug deaths and the eighth consecutive month with over 100 deaths.

Throughout October, 31 people in Interior Health have died from an overdose, setting the record for the most deaths in one month for the health authority.

According to the Coroners Service report, the East Kootenay has seen a record-high number of illicit drug deaths, with 17 as of the end of October. The region’s previous record was set in 2016, with 13 deaths throughout the year.

“We are continuing to see record-breaking numbers of people dying in B.C. due to an unsafe drug supply in our province, and it’s taking a toll on families and communities in this dual health emergency,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Challenges during COVID-19, such as access to key harm-reduction services and the toxic drug supply, including the extreme concentration of illicit fentanyl, are resulting in continuing significant and tragic loss of life across the province.”

This October represents a 116% increase in drug deaths from October 2019, which saw 75 deaths. The BC Coroners Service has seen a sustained increase in overdose deaths since March of this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the overdose crisis in B.C.,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “Exacerbating this is the highly toxic drug supply that exists in our communities right now. This latest report shows the tragic impact this crisis is having on British Columbians, and this is a problem for all of us. Now more than ever, we must remove the stigma of drug use and remove the shame people feel, which keeps them from seeking help or telling friends and family.”

B.C. has seen a total of 1,386 illicit drug deaths this year, with 216 in the Interior Health region. The Provincial Government said each health authority is at or near the highest monthly total ever recorded.